Value this time on the mats kids

The following is a monologue by Billy Crystal from the movie City Slickers and was sent to me from my friend and 60+ year old grappler Andy Dicky. In the movie Mitch (played by Billy Crystal), Phil, and Ed are all experiencing their own mid-life crises and take a two-week vacation at a dude ranch to figure things out. The scene that this monologue is from features Mitch speaking to his son’s middle school class on career day prior to leaving for the dude ranch.

Value this time in your life kids… Because this is the time in your life when you still have choices, and it goes by so quickly. When you’re a teenager you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Your thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, “what happened to my twenties?”. Your forties, you grow a little pot belly, you grow another chin… the music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Your fifties you have a minor surgery…you’ll call it a procedure, but it’s a surgery. Your sixties you have a major surgery, the music is still too loud, but it doesn’t matter because you can’t hear it anyway. Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale, you start eating dinner at two, lunch around ten, and breakfast the night before. You spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yogurt and muttering “how come the kids don’t call?”. By your eighties, you’ve had a major stroke, and you end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can’t stand, but you call mamma. Any questions?

What’s the point of sharing this with you? Is it to make sure we understand that this is as good as it’s going to get? To warn you that from here on your life will get progressively worse with the passage of time? Not at all. But things will definitely be different, and not all those differences will be “good”. Our knees, our backs, our shoulders, our central nervous systems and reflexes, etc. are examples of things that deteriorate with age. This means our experiences on the mats at 45 will not be the same as they were in our 30’s…in our 50’s our experiences on the mats won’t be the same as they were at 45. Our experiences won’t be the same over the years, but they can still be great.

Don’t waste time looking back with regret because you did not start sooner or did not pursue jiu jitsu with the passion that you now wish you would have. Don’t waste time looking down the road and worrying about your physical attributes fading and your body breaking down and the things that you may no longer be able to do. Instead, live in the moment. Enjoy your time on the mats today. Make the most out of each class, each round that you roll, each tournament you enter, each seminar you attend, etc. This moment is the only one that is guaranteed. Value this time on the mats.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

Joe

Here is the clip!

Epi 166 Get Inspired by Glenn Jarrell

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Glenn Jarrell and Byron Jabara

This week we have an interview with 58 year old brown belt and competitor Glenn Jarrell. We have been wanting to get Glenn on the podcast for quite sometime, you will soon find out why as Glenn shares some of his story.

We talk about:

  • Why he started BJJ at 47 year old
  • Using his high school wrestling to start BJJ
  • Training BJJ at 58 years old
  • Having a supportive family
  • Why he stuck with BJJ after trying many other exercises
  • Why he started competing
  • Competing against younger competitors
  • Competing at big tournaments
  • Winning purple belt Masters 6 at worlds
  • His training schedule
  • What he does differently to prepare for a tournament
  • Changes that he has made to his diet
  • Dealing with back pain
  • Working for the Kansas athletic commission at MMA events
  • Advice for someone starting BJJ in their late 40’s

Links: Glenn trans at Fox Fitness in Wichita

Quote of the week: “A good hockey player plays here the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” Wayne Gretzky

Article of the week: 3 Fixes for sore fingers in bjj

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The older grappler and injury avoidance

My first exposure to jiu-jitsu came at about 37 years of age, but after 1.5 years of training I moved and took over 5 years off. My current jiu-jitsu journey began when I was 44 and I’m now a few months shy of 50. As I’m often the oldest guy on the mats when training by more than a decade I consider myself to be somewhat of an authority of on the topic of “being an older grappler”.  In all this time training as an older grappler I have managed to avoid catastrophic injury and have limited my minor injuries to ones that have kept me off the mats for a few days at most. While I’m sure that this is due in part to good fortune, I don’t think that luck alone explains it. I have intentionally taken specific steps to help me train consistently and remain injury free. Here are the ones that I think are most significant.

From left to right: Joe Thomas 49, Ruben Gonzalez 53, Fernando San Miguel 47

From left to right: Joe Thomas 49, Ruben Gonzalez 53, Fernando San Miguel 47

I have developed a relationship of trust with my coaches. They know if I am opting out of a drill or a roll it is in an attempt to preserve my body and not because I am lazy or slacking. If I can’t participate in a drill I’ll usually find something else to do e.g. if I can’t do double leg shots the length of the floor because my knees hurt I’ll find a spot to do some crunches or pushups. If I can’t participate in a drill I’ll ask the coach if there is an “old man” variation. Maybe most importantly I always keep my coaches aware of my current physical condition.

I have also developed a relationship with my training partners based on respect and a mutual desire to see each other progress in our jiu-jitsu journeys. I train with some really tough young guys that could send me home battered and beaten after every class but choose not to. We haven’t gotten to this point just by chance. I have worked hard at it. I often times start a roll by asking my training partners what they’ve been working on lately. If they say “spider guard” and then pull guard I will let them get a sleeve grip and stand up and let them get a foot on my bicep. This kind of cooperative training lets them know I am not there to fight, I am there to train. I have found that if I go to class with a genuine desire to see my training partners progress in their journey the sentiment will be returned.

I tap all the time….early and often as the saying goes. Not only do I tap to any and all legitimate submissions, I also tap to anything that might jeopardize my ability to train the next day. Sometimes a new person will try an Americana from inside the guard. While it’s not a legitimate submission, I have bad shoulders, and a strong young aggressive guy can make my shoulder sore for a week. I’m having none of that, I’ll just tap. A choke that’s a neck crank? A gi choke across my face? I’m having none of that either, tap, tap, tap.

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Joe Thomas with his coach Fernando Halfield 25 year old BTT black belt.

I don’t hurt myself. I understand the mechanics of a flying arm bar. Sometimes I feel nimble enough I think I could pull one off. I will NEVER attempt a flying arm bar. I don’t try to explode or scramble my way out of submissions that are ¾ sunk in. If they’re that deep sudden and spastic movements are too risky from my point of view. Additionally, I feel any techniques I employee, my training partners should feel free to use as well. So I don’t jump guard or attempt judo throws when training as if I’m on the receiving end of these techniques and they go wrong I could be off the mats.

In conclusion, I know how old I am and I embrace my role as an elder statesman in the gym.  This has as much to do with enjoying the journey as it does with staying injury free. Not trying to keep up with the young guys will help keep you injury free, but it’s easy to get down on yourself when you’re a purple belt getting tapped by blue belts all night long and young phenoms come in the gym and give you a run for your money six months after they start bjj. You have to find your niche and embrace it.

DISCLAIMER: I’ve taken to writing articles/essays/compiled lists…. (whatever you want to call them)… as a way to organize my thoughts and share them with others. I’m not claiming or attempting to present completely new or original ideas – I’m taking known ideas, concepts, principles, and articulating how I’ve incorporated them into my life and training.

By Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here